Muslim leader known for interfaith dialogue passes away

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/13 February) —  Aleem Elias Macarandas, 56, a Muslim leader and educator considered to be one of the pillars of  interfaith dialogue, succumbed to cardiac arrest Thursday morning  and was buried in Islamic rites at his hometown at Ditsaan-Ramain, Lanao del Sur by noon.

Religious and civil society leaders in Lanao and Iligan joined Macarandas’ family in a salatul janaza (funeral prayer) at his hometown in Ditsaan-Ramain.

Macarandas was chair of the Philippine Muslim Welfare Society, Inc. and the Muslim World League-Philippine. He was involved in the Tripartite Commission of the Bishops-Ulama Conference and advocated Muslim-Christian Dialogue since the  1990’s when communities were polarized by distrust and misunderstanding between Moro and Visayan settlers in Lanao del Norte

Marawi prelature’s Bishop Edwin de la Peňa with his vicar general Father Chito Soganub went to Ditsaan-Ramain to pay their respects and to pray for the aleem, praising him for his “remarkable contribution in bridging Muslim and Christian relations in Mindanao.”

“I was saddened by the news of Elias Macarandas’ demise.  I first got to know him when we organized an interfaith forum at the Asian Institute of Management maybe eight years ago, as we tried to take stock of the progress of faith-based organizations in Mindanao and their work towards peace.  He will be missed,” said Amina Rasul, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID).

“The aleem will be remembered for his support to our youth peace-building activities and peace rallies. He was a friend, a father, a mentor, peace advocate, academician and a religious scholar — a profession and a vocation that is non-negotiable in his life,” said Abul Alibasa, a youth leader based in Marawi.

Janina Bernardo, head of the Civil Society Organization-Forum for Peace Inc.(CSOFP) said “the aleem spent his last decade focused on peacebuilding despite the odds and challenges that he confronted. He remained steadfast in his peace work.”

“He and his groups were active partners in directing the peace initiatives in this part of Mindanao,” she said.

Moner Bajunaid, Commissioner of  the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) said  Macarandas “was a colleague whom I met whenever he visited Cairo on vacation from his studies in Qatar. Soft-spoken but deliberate, he showed a sense of sincerity and leadership. He was clearly ahead of many of his peers in stature and authority. He will surely be missed. May Allah Almighty have mercy on his soul.”

Bajunaid said the NCMF conducted its 1st National Ulama Consultative Conference in Cebu on February 8 to 10 and Macarandas was there, along with 30 muftis and ulama.

“He spoke during the closing ceremonies and expressed his impressions about the conference, thanking the NCMF for a successful conference.  We flew together to Cagayan de Oro shortly after that – me to visit my two brothers in Cagayan de Oro, and he to go home to his beloved family in Marawi City. Little would I know that two days later Alim Elias would be gone and bid his last farewell. So sad. We all come from Allah, and to Him is our return,” Bajunaid said. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)